Living in the Future

I tend to live in the future more than I live in the present or the past. I’m constantly thinking about what comes next, and how events will come to transpire.

This tendency of mine is both blessing and curse. It is a blessing because I’m constantly planning ahead: nasty surprises are few and far between, and I’m prepared for most of them when they do, and they do, occur. It is a curse because I’m never fully present in the present, and I tend to miss things that are happening right in front of me because I’m too busy thinking about what the future will hold; which is a pity, because the present was once the future. A future I planned for.

I remember before entering university how excited I was to be going. I read up on all the courses I could join; thought about non-academic interests I might pursue; and worried about making friends, getting the right accommodation, properly managing my finances and all sorts of other things that might worry a young man studying in a foreign land.

When I entered university, most of my thoughts were centered on what I wanted to do when I graduated. Where would I work? What would I work as? Was what I was studying match up to the ideals I had of what I wanted to do after graduation?

I was determined to do well academically, but only because what I was going to be doing after graduation was dependent on my doing well (or so I thought). It wasn’t so much of a “I’m in university and I want to do well,” but rather, a “I want to do well so I can graduate and get a great job”. One treated university as something worthy of pursuit/experience in itself, the other treated it as merely a means to an end.

I had to remind myself all the time that I wanted to savour my time here, lest it be forgotten like all my earlier experiences.

Now that I’m working, I find myself constantly thinking of starting a family; of career progression; of charging toward retirement; and blending my life onto death. Each day I’m just going through the motions, waiting for the next milestone, urging it to come on sooner. it’s almost as if I didn’t want the now to occur, but would rather somehow “fast-forward” my life. Give me the highlights, for that’s all I’m interested in.

Lost in the future and forgetting the now till it becomes the hazy past. The only thing clear in my mind is the future that I’m anticipating. Which is, unfortunately, only a future that exists only in my imagination.

What’s Next?

“What’s next?”

That’s a question I find myself asking increasingly frequently these days. A question that is more often than not left to evaporate into the void without a hint of an answer lurking anywhere.

Haven’t felt this aimless since… Never.

That’s right: I’ve never felt this aimless.

I used to have these feelings of hopelessness and aimlessness, but nothing that lasted this long. I always had a plan. A plan to do something. Anything.

And these plans were for the next year or two, sometimes five. Ten even.

Dreams I had: be a millionaire at age thirty; be married (happily) with kids; live in a cottage in the countryside; play soccer professionally; qualify for Boston (the marathon). Dreams that used to excite me. Dreams that made each day easier to pass.

Back in primary school, I longed to grow up. I wanted to earn a wage; to make money; to have the freedom to spend freely. I wanted to have sex. I wanted to be taken seriously; to be respected. How I wished to be 26!

26… 26! That’s two f*cking years ago, friend.

Poetry

My creativity has died. Seriously. I can’t think of new things to say or do. And with the end of my creativity comes a feeling of naught. A feeling that screams silence. A feeling of a nothingness like a heavy fog that’s not quite there but everywhere.

I can’t remember the last time I felt like this but it must have been years ago; what I can remember is that one of the few things that brought me comfort was art. Poetry.

There are few things in this world that can combine existential absurdity with sincere meaning. Like the parent of a newborn staring into its eyes for the very first time: at once both a gift of God, and a pitiful being born into a pitiful world.

A pitiful being who will, one day, be looking into its parents eyes and thinking the exact same thing.

Life

A cluttered out leads to cluttered in; life’s a swirl now of “what’s next?” and “how come?” and “damnit get the f*** out of here!” and “leave me alone!”; but at the very same time it’s got “ohmagawd this is great!” and a good “you serious?” and “wow.”

I sit at my desk plotting and planning what my next moves should be; at 27 the decisions I make now will extend for possibly another 50 years or so. At every turn I’m asking is this the right move? But I don’t know and I start worry. And when I’m finally thinking everything’s settled more questions come my way. Though I think oh man why are there all these uncertainties? I miss the fact that it’s always been this way and always will be: just a shitload of questions and uncertainties and living with them as best we can.

And behind me she sleeps, looking so at peace.

Sometimes I ask, why do we have to wake up?

昔者莊周夢為蝴蝶,栩栩然蝴蝶也,自喻適志與,不知周也。俄然覺,則蘧蘧然周也。不知周之夢為蝴蝶與,蝴蝶之夢為周與? ---- Once Zhuangzi dreamt he was a butterfly, a butterfly flitting and fluttering around, happy with himself and doing as he pleased. He didn't know he was Zhuangzi. Suddenly he woke up and there he was, solid and unmistakable Zhuangzi. But he didn't know if he was Zhuangzi who had dreamt he was a butterfly, or a butterfly dreaming he was Zhuangzi.

Lix Has Gone Overseas

On a business trip. Belgium — can you believe it?

Back in a week, it’s probably as short as most business trips go. But still there were many times I think we both felt that it felt like Perth all over again (four months of not seeing each other!)

I still remember when she went to Qatar for her last business trip. Also another week-long affair, seeing her after the week we were both asking ourselves, “who is this person standing in front of me?”

Reminds me of the times I look through some old photographs of “me” which I don’t remember — there’s a vague resemblance, but yet again there’s an equally vague strangeness. Is that really me? Was that really me? If it was, is it still the I who I am now?

To Lix: already missing you too! and looking forward to the you of next week 🙂

Taking stock of life

I’ve been facing a sort of existential crisis recently, and I think it started with my reading of Between the Monster and the Saint by Richard Holloway, which talked about the humanistic movement and what it meant to be human (not much, it seems).

I enjoyed the book thoroughly, reading it any time and every time I had some time to spare, and it had such an impact on me that for the days I read it and the weeks that followed, I couldn’t help by seriously think about what my life meant (not much, it seems).

There was once I was in a bus on my way to work when a dialogue popped into my head from out of nowhere. It was a short little thing, and it went like this:

Oldish man says to young man: “you want to know how significant you are? Think about your life, what you’re doing now and what you’ll do down the road… Think of all the achievements you’ll have. Pretty big, huh? Now, zoom forward a hundred years. Tell me what you see. Zoom forward another hundred years. Yes, my son, that’s how significant you are!”

Though, depending on your disposition, you could well see yourself being hailed as a conquering hero a couple of hundred years on after you die, while this dialogue played in my head, thoughts like that were furthest from my mind, and it was really the opposite that I had been thinking about.

What that young man was thinking, I thought to myself, as he zoomed through the years were about the marks he had left — little acts of vandalism; snide remarks; academic achievements; career-making software development — and how they slowly faded from view as the years went on. After a couple of hundred years, he couldn’t imagine himself having the slightest impact at all, and this thought of insignificance made him bow his head in shame.

These kinds of thoughts haven’t been uncommon to me of late. Occasionally, droning through the most routine of tasks, I’d take pause and think about what the **** I was doing. And it’s been only too often that I’d be reading some technical material and suddenly think about whether or not the author thought about life and whether it was worth living. Perhaps optimised database design leads to 42?

Life is Meaningless

Sometimes you’re just minding your own business when out of the blue reality hits you: life is meaningless.

But despite your new-found revelation, you carry on with a big grin on your face, pretending everything’s all right; eventually, you’ll realise life isn’t meaningless or meaningful, and that meaning’s just a construct our brains conjure to make us comfortable with our time here on earth.

Whatever life’s meaning or lack thereof, life goes on; and in any case, it’d probably be a good idea to pretend that life’s meaningful just in case it turns out to really be true. The decision to treat life as meaningful should really be a dominating one — what’s there to lose if we treat it as such?

Living the Good Life

I had always had this notion that the concept of the “best life possible” — of living the “good life” — was real. I never quite qualified it with reasoning or investigation, and just took it as it was. Then one day, hit by inspiration, I decided to do some research on what the living the best life entailed. What I found was that few seemed to have any concrete idea on what the best life was, and those that thought they did had different ideas from the rest.

Everyone’s concept of how life should be lived was different; some promoted material success, while others abhorred it; some praised religion, while others the secular life; some said the best life simply meant being happy, while others claimed happiness was transient and illusory.

And so I stopped for a while, and wondered if asking what’s the best way to live life was like asking what the colour blue was really like — would it all be a matter of semantics and circular arguments?

In the end, I decided that I’d leave this question for another day. Maybe there are just some things that can’t be known.